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The Festival of Pacific Arts

Every four years, representatives of 27 Pacific island countries come together in one of the longest-running and largest celebrations of indigenous culture in the world: the Festival of Pacific Arts. The festival was started in 1972 by the Conference of the South Pacific Commission as a way to stanch the loss of traditional culture through development and assimilation. It was intended as an…

Being Indigenous in the 21st Century

There are more than 300 million indigenous people, in virtually every region of the world, including the Sámi peoples of Scandinavia, the Maya of Guatemala, numerous tribal groups in the Amazonian rainforest, the Dalits in the mountains of Southern India, the San and Kwei of Southern Africa, Aboriginal people in Australia, and, of course the hundreds of Indigenous Peoples in Mexico, Central and…

Pro-Choice

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples requires governments to get free, prior, and informed consent from Indigenous Peoples before any development can take place on indigenous lands. But informed consent requires information, and that is where tribal management training comes in. I am old enough to remember the Cold War, an era when the United States and the USSR…

Indigenous Science

Experts in New Orleans believe that erosion was a major reason behind the failure of levees in Hurrican Katrina. One of the approaches being used to prevent future failures is not the high-tech solution that might be expected. Instead, it is a simple, inexpensive technique used for centuries by indigenous farmers in South India: planting vetiver grass. Historically planted to mark borders and…

A Demon Among Deities

It is the dance of a demon in the carnival of God. Durbar Square, a historic plaza in Katmandu, Nepal, facing ancient palaces and adorned by Hindu temples, is always full of eager crowds on the last day of Indra Jatra, the festival celebrating Indra, the Hindu king of heaven. In this divine stage, Lakhe the demon dances among gods and dieties relentlessly and carelessly. On this night, there are…

More Good News from Australia

As Ellen Lutz reports in her letter on  page 3, the administration of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced on April 3 that the country will endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The decision  comes on the heels of Rudd’s recent speech apologizing to Aborigines for the government’s former policy of forcibly removing Aboriginal children from their families and…

A Welcome Change

The e-mail subject line read, “And then there were three . . . .” Curious, I clicked it open and my jaw dropped: twenty months after vigorously opposing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—along with the United States, Canada, and New Zealand—Australia had committed itself to this “framework that fully respects Indigenous Peoples’ rights and creates the opportunity…

The Seen and the Unseen: Spirituality among the Dagara people

I grew up in southwestern Burkina Faso, where the houses are built with mud and nicely polished with cow dung and ash. The children have their own rooms; the women have their rooms; and the men have their room. It is not to promote gender differences or sexism but is a way for men, women, and children to be able to meet their needs. Men and women often come together, but always in a sacred space…

The Key to Khmer Cuisine

By blending subtle flavors and spices, Khmer cuisine sets itself apart from the many other styles of food in Southeast Asia. It is similar to Thai cuisine, but is distinctive in creating full flavor without the use of chili. (Khmer cuisine was established before the introduction of chili.) The Khmer culture has mastered the use of herbs and spices to create flavor without the use of fats and…